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Philadelphia Eagles: Does Size Really Matter for the Linebackers?

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Philadelphia Eagles: Does Size Really Matter for the Linebackers?
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There's often a lot of criticism about the Eagles defense having undersized players. Namely, people often discuss the defensive ends and linebackers. 

Looking at the linebacker position in recent history, the Eagles haven't really had that player that scares opposing offenses. They've had some linebackers make nice hits, but they don't have that guy that will really rip your head off. 

As it stands, there are a ton of young players that make up the linebacker corps, so maybe one of them will step up to be that guy. Only time will tell.

For now, let's take a look at the linebackers I think will be on the Eagles roster heading into training camp (without free agent acquisitions) and what they're listed at on PhiladelphiaEagles.com:

Stewart Bradley—6'4" and 258 pounds
Jamar Chaney—6'0" and 242 pounds
Keenan Clayton—6'1" and 229 pounds
Moise Fokou—6'1" and 236 pounds
Greg Lloyd—6'1" and 247 pounds
Casey Matthews—6'1" and 232 pounds
Brian Rolle—5'10" and 227 pounds

Height isn't something that's particularly important to me, although it would be nice if Rolle joined the six-foot club. However, the thing that jumps out to me is the fact that only one player comes in at over 250 pounds. In fact, I think Lloyd may be a stretch to make the roster, which would mean there are only two players over 240 pounds.

In looking around the league, I found some players who are all dominant forces for their teams and tip the scale at 250 pounds or greater:

Ray Lewis—6'1" and 250 pounds
Clay Matthews—6'3" and 255 pounds
Brian Urlacher—6'4" and 258 pounds
LaMarr Woodley—6'4" and 265 pounds

On the contrary, here's another group of guys that are menaces on the field but all hover around 240 pounds:

Patrick Willis—6'1" and 240 pounds
Jon Beason—6'0" and 237 pounds
Barrett Ruud—6'2" and 241 pounds
James Harrison—6'0" and 242 pounds

So what am I getting at? Well, it's pretty clear that there are extremely talented linebackers around the league that come in a variety of different sizes.

Does size matter? Not particularly, no. Outside of Harrison, you can make the case that these smaller linebackers were all highly rated coming out of college. Willis, Beason and Ruud were all selected 36th overall or better. Of course, we know the Eagles just never seem to draft linebackers early.

The skill-set a linebacker has is clearly more important than his size. Players that may be considered smaller have other talents that offset their size: instincts, fluid lateral movement, powerful hands and so on.

If we're going to be unhappy with the Eagles linebackers, I'd have to place more of the blame on the Eagles not valuing the position high enough, rather than the size of the players they bring in.

What are your thoughts on the Eagles linebackers?

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